GAME 28: Ole Miss (15-12, 6-7) vs. Alabama (15-12, 5-8)
Saturday 02.28.09 | 3 p.m. CT
Oxford, Miss. | C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)
Live TV: Raycom (Tom Hammond, play-by-play; Larry Conley, analyst).
Pay-per-view TV: ESPN Full Court
Live Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Keith Carter, analyst). Listen Online through RebelVision
Live Video: ESPN360.com (Free on-campus viewing at all U.S. colleges and universities)
XM Radio: Channel 200
THREE GAMES LEFT AS REBELS HOST TIDE
With the regular season nearing its end and just three games remaining on the schedule, Ole Miss hosts Alabama on Saturday as both teams jockey for position in the tightly contested SEC West. Currently the Rebels are fourth with a 6-7 league record, just ahead of the fifth-place Crimson Tide at 5-8. Auburn and Mississippi State are tied for second in the division with a 7-6 record. Ole Miss closes the regular season with a road trip to Arkansas this coming Wednesday, followed by the home finale on Saturday against MSU. The Rebels dropped a 77-64 decision at Auburn on Wednesday, despite a career-high 24 points from SEC Freshman of the Year candidate Terrico White. The Rebels led 40-36 at halftime before the Tigers’ second-half surge. Ole Miss has won four straight SEC games at home and is 44-5 at home under Andy Kennedy.
Ole Miss Athletics and Tad Smith Coliseum will be “going green” on Saturday with activities surrounding the community-wide effort to beautify, conserve and recycle. Several Oxford and campus organizations will have booths set up in the concourse, while fans will receive complimentary reusable grocery bags from Regions Bank and will have the chance to catch green T-shirts for every 3-pointer that the Rebels make against Alabama.
REBELS MAKING PUSH FOR POSTSEASON
Despite early season-ending injuries to key guards Trevor Gaskins, Eniel Polynice and Chris Warren, Ole Miss has improved throughout league play and put itself in a position to compete for a third straight postseason appearance down the stretch.
The emergence of freshman playmakers Terrico White and Murphy Holloway has been a big factor in the Rebels’ surge. Throughout league play, the team has become more balanced in a number of areas. Five players average eight or more points, led by White’s 17.3 ppg and David Huertas’ 17.2.
Rebounding has also been proved a big reason for the recent success. Entering league play, the team averaged just 34.9 boards per game to its opponents’ 37.1. Since then, Ole Miss ranks second in the SEC with a +4.5 rebounding margin, out-rebounding SEC foes 40.1-35.5. The Rebels also lead the SEC with 13.8 offensive boards per game in league play.
Consider that Ole Miss...
has won five of its last eight games.
boasts the nation’s No. 21 strength of schedule (CBSSports.com RPI).
has three games remaining in the regular season, vs. the SEC West’s Nos. 5, 6 and 2 teams.
defeated three teams that were leading their division at the time of the game (No. 24 Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee).
is playing without three key guards, making the team one of the least experienced in the nation according to KenPom.com.
SCOUTING THE CRIMSON TIDE
Alabama has improved its record to 15-12 overall and 5-8 in league play after its last two wins over Mississippi State this past Saturday (87-85 in OT) and Arkansas on Wednesday (88-67). The Tide defeated Ole Miss 76-73 last month in Tuscaloosa. They have collected a 3-5 record under interim head coach Philip Pearson following the resignation of long-time mentor Mark Gottfried. The squad snapped a four-game skid with the most recent back-to-back wins, thanks in large part to the play of senior Alonzo Gee (reigning SEC Player of the Week), who scored 28 vs. MSU and 23 against Arkansas. Gee leads the team with a 15.1 scoring average in all games and 15.7 ppg in SEC contests. For the season, Senario Hillman (13.5 ppg) and JaMychal Green (10.0 ppg) also average double figure points.
OLE MISS-ALABAMA SERIES
Saturday’s game will be the 164th meeting between the two schools. The Crimson Tide holds a 114-49 lead in the series, which began in 1921. The teams have split their season series in nine of the last 10 years, including last season when the home team won each instance. Alabama was victorious 76-73 in Tuscaloosa earlier this season, despite a game-high 26 points from David Huertas. Prior to the 2004-05 season, the home team prevailed in 13 straight bouts between the Rebels and Tide.
The series is tied 37-37 in games played in Oxford. The Rebels have won nine of the last 11 meetings at Tad Smith Coliseum, including last year’s 91-88 triumph.
Several members of the Rebel family call Alabama their “sweet home”. Assistant coach Torrey Ward and coordinator of operations Bill Armstrong are both from Birmingham and played collegiately at UAB, while operations assistant Robi Coker hails from Skirum. In addition, head coach Andy Kennedy spent three years playing at UAB and later served assistant coaching stints for both the Blazers and the South Alabama Jaguars.
LEAST EXPERIENCED TEAM IN THE NATION (ALMOST)
Departures and injuries have led to Ole Miss being ranked as the second-least experienced team in the nation, according to updated stats on KenPom.com. The Rebels rank No. 343 of 344 on the list, which calculates the accumulated experience of all the team’s players who have logged minutes on the floor this season. Also among the least experienced squads in the country are fellow SEC teams Arkansas (339) and Vanderbilt (338).
Currently, Ole Miss has no seniors among its scholarship members, while the team features an active roster with just three scholarship players who had any Division I experience prior to this season (junior David Huertas and sophomores Zach Graham and Malcolm White). The remainder of this year’s significant contributors is made up of four freshmen and a junior college transfer.
Despite facing just two ranked teams this season, across the board the Rebels have pitted themselves against one of the toughest slates of opponents in the nation. Ole Miss’ strength of schedule is ranked as high as No. 21 in the nation by CBSSports.com RPI. With a 15-12 record, Ole Miss ranks No. 60 on that list, fifth among SEC schools. Six teams the Rebels have faced are ranked in the top 40 - Utah (9), Louisville (11), West Virginia (17), LSU (26), Tennessee (27) and South Carolina (40).
DEFENDING HOME COURT
Winning at home has been a trademark of Andy Kennedy’s squads since he took the reins in 2006-07. Ole Miss is 44-5 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum over the last three seasons, including a 12-2 mark this year. The Rebels have won four straight SEC games at home since a Jan. 17 loss to LSU. The 80-78 loss to West Virginia on Dec. 3 snapped a 25-game home win streak over non-conference opponents.
HOLLOWAY GETS SECOND SEC FROSH AWARD
After helping Ole Miss to wins over Tennessee and Georgia, forward Murphy Holloway was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday, his second such honor of the season. The Irmo, S.C., native averaged 15.0 points and 11.5 rebounds in the two victories. He produced his best SEC game of the season with a career-high 18 points (8-of-10 FGs) along with 13 rebounds in an 81-65 win over the Vols. He then recorded his third straight double-double with 12 points and 10 boards in a 69-47 victory over the Bulldogs.
HITTING THE BOARDS
Ole Miss has established itself as one of the most physical teams on the boards in SEC play. The Rebels rank first in the conference in offensive rebounds per game (13.8) and second in rebounding margin (+4.5) and total rebounds per game (40.1) in league contests. Ole Miss has out-rebounded the other team in nine of 13 league outings. The Rebels dominated Florida on the glass with a 46-22 advantage (second-largest margin by a Rebel squad this season) and out-boarded Tennessee 44-30.
Freshman forward Murphy Holloway leads the team with a 6.4 rebounding average in all games (14th-best in SEC) and 6.9 rpg in league outings (11th in SEC). Sophomore forward Malcolm White, who grabbed a career-high 18 boards at Auburn on Wednesday, is second on the squad with 5.6 rpg in all games (20th in SEC) and 6.6 rpg in conference play (15th in SEC).
DEFENSE SHINES IN WIN OVER DOGS
Ole Miss has been forced to re-invent itself a couple of times this season due to injuries, and one of the results has been an increasingly stingy defense. Against Georgia on Saturday, the Rebels held the Bulldogs to 47 points, the fewest by an SEC opponent since a 55-45 win over Arkansas in 2004. Georgia’s 14 field goals and 25.0 percent FG shooting are the lowest marks by any SEC team in a league game this season.
The defensive effort helped Ole Miss surpass its largest margin of victory in an SEC home game under Andy Kennedy (+22, 69-47) for the second time in three weeks (+19, 78-59 win over Auburn).
DIVISION LEADER KILLERS
Ole Miss has played the spoiler role in a trio of recent games against teams that were at least tied for an SEC division lead at the time of the matchup. In the last three contests against such teams, Ole Miss won 85-80 at home over No. 24 Kentucky, 67-63 at Mississippi State and 81-65 over Tennessee in Oxford. That means the Rebels have as many SEC wins over division leaders (3) as non-division leaders (3) this year.
REBELS ENJOY LEADING AT THE HALF
Ole Miss has been known for a few comeback wins, but the Rebels seem to be at their best when they are leading at halftime. This year, the squad has a 9-2 record when up at the break and a 6-10 mark when trailing.
The Rebels put together a three-game winning streak, tied for their longest this season, prior to a defeat at Vanderbilt. The wins included an 85-80 triumph over then-SEC East leading No. 24 Kentucky (first over UK since 2001), a 67-63 victory at then-SEC West leader Mississippi State (first in Starkville since 1998) and a 78-59 triumph over Auburn (then the largest margin of victory at home vs. SEC team under Andy Kennedy).
INJURIES DETER BUT DON’T DESTROY
To call the 2008-09 Ole Miss basketball season “injury-plagued” would be an understatement. Before conference play began, the Rebels were already down three key members of the backcourt to season-ending knee injuries. In an 11-day stretch during the first two weeks of play, the Rebels lost sophomore Trevor Gaskins (torn ACL in left knee) and junior Eniel Polynice (extensive cartilage damage and loose fragments in left knee). And then on Dec. 18, sophomore point guard Chris Warren suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the Rebels’ last offensive possession of the 77-68 loss to No. 9 Louisville.
Sophomore guard Zach Graham is battling through a partially torn patella tendon in his right knee, while freshman guard Terrico White recently played through a bone bruise to his right knee that he suffered at S.C.
And still, the Rebels have found their new identity and won five of their last eight games with the very young roster that is left.
Gaskins, Polynice and Warren have had successful surgeries and are in the midst of their rehab programs and expect to be ready before the start of next season. Gaskins and Polynice are expected to receive medical redshirts, while it is doubtful that Warren will be eligible for the medical redshirt based on the number of games he had already played (11).
80 POINTS = OLE MISS WIN
The Rebels boast an unblemished 6-0 record this season when scoring 80 or more points. The team’s record is 9-12 when it does not reach the 80-point mark. In three seasons under Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss owns a 32-3 record (.914 win pct.) when scoring at least 80.
FREE-THROW SHOOTING EXPLOITS
Ole Miss ranks second among SEC teams and 32nd in the nation with a 73.9 free-throw percentage this season. The Rebels set a school record with a 22-for-22 performance at the line against South Alabama and shot 93.8 percent (15-of-16) from the stripe against Morgan State, 93.3 percent (14-15) vs. Florida A&M and 93.8 percent (15-16) at Auburn on Wednesday. David Huertas ranks fourth in the SEC statistics at 80.4 percent (123-of-153), while Zach Graham boasts an 82.8 percent mark from the line (53-of-64) and Terrance Henry is hitting at a 79.5 percent clip (31-of-39).
It is a marked improvement from a year ago, when the Rebels made just 65.1 percent of their attempts. In fact, Ole Miss has tripled the number of games in which it shot 80 percent or better from the charity stripe this year (9) compared to last season (3).
WHAT OLE MISS IS PLAYING WITH...
2 juniors, 2 sophomores and 5 freshmen among scholarship players
3 scholarship players who saw playing time a year ago (David Huertas, Zach Graham, Malcolm White)
SEC’s 4th-leading scorer (David Huertas - 18.7 ppg)
2 SEC Freshman of the Week honorees (Terrico White twice, Murphy Holloway twice)
Last year’s So. Carolina and Tennessee Mr. Basketball honorees (Murphy Holloway, Terrico White)
WHAT OLE MISS IS PLAYING WITHOUT...
77.0 percent of scoring from last year
79.7 percent of rebounding from last year
77.6 percent of minutes played from last year
3 key backcourt members with knee injuries (Chris Warren, Eniel Polynice, Trevor Gaskins)
Any scholarship seniors
4 of last year’s 5 primary starters
TERRICO WHITE, BUDDING SUPERSTAR
Freshman guard Terrico White has been hitting on all cylinders since league play began and is making a push for many postseason accolades with his outstanding body of work. His 17.3 scoring average in league games ranks sixth among all SEC players and first among league freshmen. He also ranks 11th in assists (3.0/game), 10th in FG percentage (43.7), third in 3’s per game (2.7) and sixth in 3-pt FG percentage (35.0) in SEC outings. The superb athlete known for highlight-reel dunks has also drained 3+ field goals from downtown in 10 of the last 12 contests. He has led the Rebels in scoring in seven of the last eight games, including four 20+ point outings. White’s 24 points at Auburn Wednesday were a career high. He led with 21 points vs. Tennessee and 19 against Georgia. He poured in 23 at Vanderbilt. He had 19 points and a career-high 8 rebounds in the win over Auburn. He had 18 points (12 in 2nd half) to lead the Rebels to victory at Mississippi State. His 21 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds helped Ole Miss upset No. 24 Kentucky. In that game, he had a highlight-reel dunk that landed on Sportscenter’s top plays when he skied over 6-foot-9 post men Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson. He captured back-to-back then-career highs with 18 points against Arkansas and 22 vs. LSU.
MALCOLM TURNING HEADS
Throughout league play, Malcolm White has continued to improve, and the sophomore forward proved that against Auburn on Wednesday when he pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds, the most by a Rebel since Justin Reed had 19 against SE Louisiana in 2003. White scored a big game against Georgia, nearly posting a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds, while blocking a career-high five shots. Entering the Kentucky game, White was averaging 5.7 points and 4.9 boards per outing, but he exploded for a career-high 20 points (8-of-12 FGs) with 6 rebounds in a season-high 36 minutes of action against the 24th-ranked Wildcats. Since Dec. 13, White’s season averages have gone from 3.0 ppg and 4.1 rpg to currently 6.7 ppg and 5.6 rpg. He has scored double figures in six of the last nine games, while his shot blocking has been a constant all year as he ranks seventh in the SEC with 1.4 bpg.
HOLLOWAY TURNING IN MONSTER GAMES
Freshman forward Murphy Holloway has become a beast on the boards in recent weeks and had produced three straight double-doubles prior to the Auburn game. He has a team-high four double-doubles this season, 2nd-most among SEC freshmen. Holloway had 12 points and 10 rebounds vs. UGA after he tallied a career-high 18 points to go with 13 boards against Tennessee. He recorded 13 and 11 at LSU. Had five straight double-figure scoring games from 1/3 to 1/21. Posted first double-double of season with 15 pts and 16 rebs vs. FAMU.
Holloway leads the team and ranks 14th in the SEC with a 6.4 rebounding average, while he is fifth in the SEC with 3.0 offensive boards per game. In league play, he ranks 11th among all players with 6.9 rpg.
FRESHMEN MAKING THEIR MARK
Rebel freshman guard Terrico White and forward Murphy Holloway have continued to progress in their debut season and have proven themselves as two of the top rookies in the SEC this season. Entering the weekend, White ranks second among league freshmen in scoring at 12.4 ppg, while Holloway is 11th at 8.5 ppg. In league games, White ranks first among freshmen and sixth among all players with with 17.3 ppg, while Holloway is 11th among freshmen with 9.0 ppg.
White is making the fourth-most 3-pointers among freshmen with 1.7/game and handing out the seventh-most assists with 2.3/game. In SEC games, he ranks first among freshmen and third overall with 2.7 3’s/game, while he is fourth among freshmen with 3.0 assists/game.
Holloway, the team’s top rebounder, ranks third among league freshmen and 14th among all players with 6.4 rpg. He is first among SEC freshmen with a 55.8 FG percentage and second with 1.2 steals/game. In league play, he also ranks third among freshmen with 6.9 rpg.
HUERTAS TAKES GAME TO A NEW LEVEL
David Huertas has been a scoring machine for the Rebels this season, averaging 18.7 points, good for fourth among SEC players and 45th in the nation. At his current pace, Huertas would finish with the highest season scoring average by a Rebel since Joe Harvell scored 25.0 ppg in 1991-92. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points in 12 contests. His 17.2 ppg in SEC play ranks seventh among league players. He ranks third in the SEC overall in 3’s per game (2.7) and fifth in 3-point percentage (36.5). He tied a season high with 27 points at South Carolina. He had 20 against No. 9 Louisville and set or tied career highs with 8 free-throws, 2 blocks and 4 steals against the Cardinals. Against South Alabama, he poured in 27 points and tied his career high with 7 three’s, which is also tied for the second-highest single-game total in school history. He ranks among the SEC leaders in several categories this year, as listed below:
Huertas’ SEC Ranks (AS OF 2/26)
Category SEC/NCAA Rank Statistic
Points 4th/45th 18.7/game
FG Percentage 14th 42.5
FT Percentage 4th 80.4
3-pt FG Percentage 5th 36.5
3-pt FGs Made 3rd 2.7/game
Minutes Played 7th 32.2/game
HUERTAS LANDS ON SEASON TREY CHART, AGAIN
For the second time in his two seasons at Ole Miss, David Huertas has shot his way onto the school’s all-time single season chart for most 3-pointers. With his 73 trifectas this season, he has vaulted into 7th on the list and is now 2 treys behind his own mark of 75 from last year.
OLE MISS SEASON 3-POINT FIELD GOALS
1. 103 Chris Warren (35 games, 2008)
2. 96 Clarence Sanders (34 games, 2007)
3. 83 Aaron Harper (31 games, 2002)
4. 79 Joe Harvell (28 games, 1992)
5. 77 Keith Carter (33 games, 1999)
6. 75 David Huertas (35 games, 2008)
7. 73 David Huertas (27 games, 2009)
RECORDS THAT WERE MEANT TO BE BROKEN
In just their second season playing for the Red and Blue, Chris Warren and David Huertas have both moved up Ole Miss’ career three-point charts at a break-neck pace. With 73 treys this year, Huertas has moved all the way up to sixth place on the all-time list with 148. Warren nailed 25 from downtown prior to his season-ending injury this year and now sits in eighth with 128.
OLE MISS CAREER 3-POINT FIELD GOALS
1. 278 Aaron Harper (123 games, 2001-04)
2. 249 Keith Carter (117 games, 1996-1999)
3. 214 Joe Harvell (114 games, 1990-93)
4. 163 Jason Harrison (132 games, 1999-02)
5. 158 Todd Abernethy (122 games, 2004-07)
6. 148 David Huertas (62 games, 2008-present)
7. 131 Joezon Darby (81 games, 1996-98)
8. 128 Chris Warren (46 games, 2008-present)
RUNNING THE POINT
Freshman Terrico White has proven himself more than capable since taking over the starting point guard duties 10 games ago. The Memphis native has been the team’s leading scorer in seven of those 10 outings, including all five wins during that span. White began the season working on the wings, but in the last 10 games as the primary ball handler, he has put up 17.8 ppg and 4.3 rpg while dishing out 34 assists to just 20 turnovers. Following the season-ending injury to preseason All-SEC PG Chris Warren on Dec. 18, the team turned to freshman Will Bogan, who had served as Warren’s backup for the season’s first 11 games. Bogan received the starting nod in the first six games after the injury.
T. WHITE: SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK AGAIN
For the second time in three weeks, guard Terrico White was named SEC Freshman of the Week, the league office announced Feb. 2. White averaged 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in Rebel wins over No. 24 Kentucky and at Mississippi State. He scored 21 points with 5 boards, 7 assists and just 2 turnovers vs. UK, then had 12 of his team-high 18 points in the 2nd half to help Ole Miss win in Starkville.
OTHER PLAYER POINTS
Will Bogan: Made first six career starts at PG following Chris Warren’s injury, averaging 25.5 minutes per start ... Served as Warren’s back-up through first 11 games ... Has dished out 3 assists on seven occasions ... Tied season high with 8 points at Florida ... Scored 8 points against Marshall.
Kevin Cantinol: Redshirt-freshman forward set career highs with 8 points (4-4 FGs), 4 rebounds and 23 minutes played in the 78-65 win at New Orleans ... Earned his first career start at New Mexico.
DeAundre Cranston: JUCO transfer tied his season high with 9 points against Tennessee, while pulling down six boards ... Recorded 7 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in the win over No. 24 Kentucky ... Had 9 rebounds against No. 9 Louisville ... Set a season high with 12 rebounds along with 8 points vs. UCF ... Started his first game as a Rebel vs. Marshall ... Had 9 points and 5 rebounds vs. South Alabama ... Despite a wide, 6-9 frame, has the ability to connect from long range (7-for-23 3-pt FGs on the season).
Zach Graham: Playing with a partially torn patella tendon in his right knee ... Regularly guards the opposing team’s top offensive threat on the perimeter ... Has hit 53-of-64 free throws (82.8 pct.) through 27 games ... Tallied 15 points (including 7-of-8 FTs) at Auburn ... Career-high 4 assists to go with 7 points and 6 boards at LSU ... Fourth straight double-digit scoring game with 11 points vs. Auburn (3-of-4 from downtown) ... 13 points at MSU ... 11 points and 5 rebounds with 3 trifectas against Kentucky ... Scored 11 points, all in 1st half, at South Carolina, adding 7 rebounds ... Had 12 points and 5 rebounds vs. Arkansas ... Notched 14 points with 5 boards at Florida ... 8 points with 7 rebounds vs. No. 9 Louisville ... Scored 12 points at New Mexico ... Contributed 9 points and 5 boards vs. UCF ... Just hours after learning that junior guard Eniel Polynice would miss the remainder of the season, Graham stepped into Polynice’s spot in the starting lineup vs. South Alabama and responded with a career-high 16 points, including 3-for-4 from the field, 2-of-3 from downtown and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw stripe.
Terrance Henry: 6-foot-9 forward is hitting free throws at a 79.5 percent clip (31-of-39) ... Pulled down seven rebounds at Auburn ... Set a season high with 10 points in start against Auburn, adding 5 boards and 3 assists ... Had 9 points at New Mexico, also blocked 3 shots ... Scored 9 points vs. Morgan State ... Season-high 8 rebounds vs. UCF ... Earned a spot in the starting lineup for the first three games of his collegiate career ... Tallied 8 points and 7 rebounds vs. Utah ... Had 8 points and 6 boards against South Alabama.